Inside Review – PS4/PC/Xbox One (Xbox One version reviewed)
OK. Cards on the table. I am a huge fan of Limbo from PlayDead. I own it on multiple platforms and have completed it numerous times. I’m a sucker for atmospheric gaming experiences and Limbo had it in bucketloads. So, when PlayDead announced they were developing a follow-up (more of spiritual sequel) I was immediately excited. Development took a while but I was happy to wait.
And then they released Inside.
It’s hard to describe Inside without sounding too gushing about it. For me, it’s everything gaming should be. It’s atmospheric, instinctual, logical, entrancing, captivating and puzzling, all at the same time.
Inside starts as you, an unnamed little boy in a distinctive red pullover, lost in the woods. Given the absence of visual cues, no HUD or control tips, you have no choice but to head out and explore your new environment.
And what a gorgeous environment it is.
Inside’s art style oozes beauty and it is obvious someone has lavished this game with as much love and attention as they could. From the dark and dingy forests to the rain-soaked farmyards and onto the industrial-style areas later in the game, each area is a testament to PlayDead’s visual style and shows why their games are so widely loved and respected. The colour scheme used is dark and muted, which only serves to highlight your bright red jumper and your place in the world. The dreary dystopian surroundings can be an allegory for anything you want (light vs dark, colour vs black and white, good vs evil) but as you continually move through the world, you are left in no doubt that you are unwelcome there and you should move on as quickly as possible.
And move on you do. Each danger is represented in a real-world sense and, although it is never fully explained who the others are or what they are doing, it’s clear that everyone is out to get you. Guards try to kill you, guard dogs will chase you and pigs will try to run you down. And that’s just in the first half an hour of the game. There are other dangers later in the game, but to discuss them would potentially spoil the story, so we’ll leave it at that.
The sound direction in Inside is another strong point. Limited use of strong backing music, combined with sound effects and audio cues make Inside a joy to listen to. Sounds can warn of impending danger and can even give tips in-game, but it’s never obtrusive and it never gets in the way. The sound just adds to the whole experience and the game is so much the better for it.
The puzzles in Inside are all logically presented and require equally logical thinking to get past them. There is no puzzle that cannot be solved just by sitting back and thinking about the approach you are taking. Some puzzles require the use of the environment around you, while others require the use of technologies you find along the way. But again, each puzzle is presented as a real-world obstacle which requires real-world thinking to circumvent.
And that is where Inside excels. The entire game – the art style, the sounds, the music, the puzzles, all combine to keep you in the world and in the moment. There is nothing in the game that makes you suspend belief in the world around you, although there are some WTF moments later in the game, but these moments still seem congruent with the world you inhabit and although these moments are quite jarring, it still (kinda) makes sense.
Which brings up perhaps the biggest point. Don’t, whatever you do, watch any videos, read any walkthroughs and look at any spoilers for this game before you play it. As an experience, it is best consumed in one sitting, which should take you a few hours. It’s quite short but it packs in more joy, fear and danger in those few hours than most games manage in a 40-hour campaign. There is replay value in the game in the form of electrical spheres which need to be shut down. These, like most other collectibles in other game, can be found under secret hatches, through secret doors and deep underground and offer an excuse to delve back into the world of Inside, although once you’ve tasted it, you’ll be happy to go back.
In summary, do yourself a favour and buy this game. It’s one of the rare gems which you occasionally come across as a gamer. It’s a truly immersive and wonderful experience which, once savoured, needs to be shared with as many people as possible. On the face of it, it seems like a simple platformer, but it is so much more. I’ve been a gamer for a long time but rarely have I experienced a game which demands your attention and rewards you handsomely for it. I can’t wait for PlayDead’s next adventure.
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Look, just buy it, OK?
- Gameplay - 10/1010/10
- Graphics - 10/1010/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Replay Value - 8/108/10
About: Ian Robbie
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